One bitcoin owner, Stefan Thomas, has revealed that he only has two guesses left to unlock over $220 million in crypto after eight failed trials to access his fortune. The German-born computer programmer who lives in San Francisco was rewarded with 7,002 bitcoins over ten years ago for recording a video that explained how the crypto works.
Back then, the bitcoins were worth between $2 and $6 each. With BTC exploding amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the bitcoins are now worth over $33,000 each which puts the value of the total fortune at over $220 million.
But, for Mr. Thomas, he stored the password to access the digital wallet that holds the bitcoin on a piece of paper that he lost. The password is mandatory for unlocking a small hard drive that is known as an IronKey. This drive contains the private keys to a digital wallet that now holds Thomas’ Bitcoin fortune.
The IronKey is designed to allow users up to ten guesses before it encrypts its contents forever. Thomas told the New York Times that he has already tried eight password combinations that he uses without any success.
“I would just lay in bed and think about it. Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again.”
All Is Not Yet Lost
Thomas’s unlucky ordeal has thrown some light on one of the shortcomings that come with dealing in cryptos. Unlike traditional banks, cryptos have no function to retrieve lost or forgotten passwords. Based on the Chainalysis crypto data firm’s findings, almost 20% of the existing 18.5 million bitcoin seems to be stuck in the lost or maybe inaccessible digital wallets.
So far, a growing number of locked out owners have been forced to painfully watching on, unable to cash in on their digital wealth, as the value of bitcoin steeply increased during the pandemic.
One business that helps find lost digital keys, Wallet Recovery Services, said that it has received 70 requests per day from individuals who want help recovering their funds. That is almost three times the number received a month ago.
After the highlight of Thomas’ troubles, some experts advise that he should invest his money into methods of hacking his IronKey and unlock the funds. An internet security expert at Stanford Internet Observatory, Alex Stamos, is confident that he can crack the password within six months.
“Take it to professionals to buy 20 IronKeys and spend six months finding a side-channel or uncapping. I’ll make it happen for 10%. Call me.”
For now, Thomas says that he has kept the IronKey out of sight and out of mind. He told the New York Times:
“I got to a point where I said to myself, ‘Let it be in the past, just for your mental health.’”